Successful Relationships: Quality Over Quantity

Vayakam Moshe v’Yehoshua mesharso vaya’al Moshe el Har HaElokim (Shemos 24:13)

At the end of Parashas Mishpatim, the Torah describes Yehoshua as Moshe’s servant, who was so close to his teacher that he remained at the base of Mount Sinai for 40 days eagerly awaiting Moshe’s return. However, Harav Aharon Leib Shteinman, zt”l, points out that the total period of time during which Yehoshua served and learned from Moshe was actually quite short.

The Mishnah in Eduyos (2:10) teaches that the entire punishment and judgment of the Egyptians spanned a period of 12 months, prior to which Moshe was living in Midian, and the Torah was given only seven weeks after the Exodus. At this point, Yehoshua had known Moshe for at most a little more than one year, yet he was already considered Moshe’s primary disciple. Rav Shteinman suggests that this teaches us that the depth of the connection between a rebbi and his student is not a function of the amount of time that they spend together, but rather of the student’s dedication and commitment to learn from his Rebbi and emulate his ways.

Similarly, Harav Chaim Vital is considered the primary disciple of the Arizal, and most of the reliable teachings of the Arizal that we have today are found in the writings of Rav Chaim Vital. However, they spent only 20 months together before the Arizal tragically passed away at the age of 38. Nevertheless, Rav Chaim Vital was so devoted to his Rebbi that this short period of time was sufficient for him to imbibe the Arizal’s wisdom and preserve it for future generations, as the depth of the relationship is far more important than its length.

Harav Yisroel Reisman notes that this concept can be extended to friendship as well. The Mishnah in Avos (5:16) describes the relationship between Dovid and Yonason as the quintessential friendship, as their love was eternal and not based on any ulterior motives. For how long did they actually know each other? They did not meet until after Shaul’s ascension to the throne. Shaul’s entire reign lasted only two years, and Yonason died on the same day as his father (Shmuel 1 31:6).

Even during these two years, they did not spend much time together, as Rav Reisman posits that Dovid spent at least one of these two years running away from Shaul, who wanted to kill him, during which time he had no interactions with Yonason other than the episode on Rosh Chodesh in which Yonason clarified his father’s desire to kill Dovid and advised him to flee for his life (Shmuel 1 20:18–42).

Even before Shaul turned against Dovid, he and Yonason were often separated into different encampments on the battlefield, yet despite the fact that they spent such a limited amount of time together, their relationship is held up as the paradigm of the closest love that two friends can experience. As Rav Shteinman explained, this teaches us that the depth of the bond between two friends is not determined by the quantity of time that they spend together, but by the quality of their commitment to one another.

Rav Reisman adds that if this idea is true for platonic friends, it certainly applies to the closest friendship of all, that of husband and wife. Many people question how it is possible for a young man and woman to meet only a few times and decide that this is the person with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives, and they assume that without a more prolonged courtship period to get to know one another better, the young couple will be doomed to an unhappy marriage that will often end in divorce. Fortunately, we know that this is not the case; the error in their logic is that the success of the relationship is determined not by the amount of time they have spent together, but rather by the depth of their commitment to respect, love and give to one another.

Q: A yeshivah student asked another boy to wake him up at a specific time. On his way into the room, his friend accidentally walked on top of the glasses of the boy who was sleeping and broke them. Is he obligated to pay for them?

A: 1) The Gemara in Bava Kamma (27b) rules that if a person is walking in a public thoroughfare and accidentally breaks something which was placed there, he is exempt from paying for the damages because people are generally focused on other matters when they are walking and are unaccustomed to looking down to make sure that there is nothing in their path which could break. Based on this, Harav Meir Bransdorfer rules that by asking his friend to enter his room and wake him up, the sleeping student gave his friend permission to walk in the room, rendering it legally comparable to a public thoroughfare, in which case he had no responsibility to look where he was walking and is exempt from paying for the glasses. Harav Yaakov Blau disagrees and maintains that even though he was given permission to enter the room, this does not transform the room into a public thoroughfare, and he is still obligated to examine where he is walking to prevent damage. Since he failed to do so, he must pay for the broken glasses.

Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email